Biology and Philosophy

, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 33–53 | Cite as

Are Random Drift and Natural Selection Conceptually Distinct?

  • Roberta L. Millstein


The latter half of thetwentieth century has been marked by debates inevolutionary biology over the relativesignificance of natural selection and randomdrift: the so-called ``neutralist/selectionist''debates. Yet John Beatty has argued that it isdifficult, if not impossible, to distinguishthe concept of random drift from the concept ofnatural selection, a claim that has beenaccepted by many philosophers of biology. Ifthis claim is correct, then theneutralist/selectionist debates seem at bestfutile, and at worst, meaningless. I reexaminethe issues that Beatty raises, and argue thatrandom drift and natural selection, conceivedas processes, can be distinguished from one another.

Beatty Brandon Carson causal relevance chance conceptual distinction discriminate sampling evolution Hodge indiscriminate sampling natural selection neutralism outcome probability process random drift selectionism 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Roberta L. Millstein
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyCalifornia State University, HaywardHaywardU.S.A.

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